The Book Smugglers: Holocaust Heroes

March 19, 2019

Albright College’s 15th annual Richard J. Yashek Memorial Lecture will explore the efforts of Holocaust inmates who risked their lives to rescue thousands of Jewish books, manuscripts and documents from the Nazis. “The Book Smugglers of the Vilna Ghetto: A Story of Spiritual Resistance During the Holocaust,” led by David Fishman, professor of history at the Jewish Theological Seminary will be free and open to the public, April 3, at 7:30 p.m., in Albright College’s McMillan Student Center, South Lounge.

Discovering that Nazis intended to loot, deport and destroy cultural treasures, a group of ghetto inmates risked their lives over a period of 18 months to rescue Jewish books, manuscripts and documents. This act of resistance was an affirmation of human dignity and an expression of faith that the Jewish people and their culture would survive. Some of the inmates survived the Holocaust and dug up the hidden treasures, many of which eventually made traveled to the United States and Israel.

Speaker David E. Fishman, Ph.D., is professor of history at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York, and a leading authority on the Jews of Russia and Eastern Europe. His books include “Russia’s First Modern Jews,” “The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture” and “The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis” — winner of a National Jewish Book Award. Fishman is director of Project Judaica, JTS’s academic and research program in Ukraine, based at Kiev-Mohyla Academy National University.

Albright’s annual Richard J. Yashek Memorial Lecture is named for Holocaust survivor Richard Yashek (1929-2005). Born in Luebeck, Germany, Richard J. Yashek’s life was forever changed when Adolf Hitler set his sights on German Jews. Though he survived Nazi concentration camp internment at age 12 and later moved to the United States, Yashek would never again see his parents or younger brother. Upon his death in 2005, Yashek’s family donated a 221-folder assembly of documents, correspondence, birth certificates, deportation lists and video interviews to Albright College.

Located in Albright College’s Gingrich Library, the Lakin Holocaust Library & Resource Center is a joint effort between the college and the Jewish Federation of Reading, containing more than 2,800 volumes of text and audio-visual materials that support Albright’s Holocaust Studies program and the center’s mission to educate the community about the Holocaust and other genocides.